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Gobert misses Game 2 for Wolves after the birth of his child

DENVER – The Timberwolves were without defensive anchor Rudy Gobert on Monday night for Game 2 of their NBA Western Conference semifinal series against the Nuggets.

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said before Game 2 that Gobert would miss the game for personal reasons. Sources confirmed Gobert had been in the Twin Cities on Monday for the birth of his child with fiancée Julia Bonilla.

The team attempted to find a way to have Gobert return in time for the game at Ball Arena, but those efforts were unsuccessful given the timing and heavy winds that caused flight delays in Denver.

"There was definitely consideration and looking at the timing of it all," Finch said. "Just the timing of his circumstances, plus some weather made it really tough. Didn't feel like [he] was gonna be able to get here and be prepared to play."

During a road trip in Utah in March, Gobert was asked if he would consider missing a playoff game to be there for his child's birth. Without hesitation, he said he would.

"I don't think there's any debate to have," Gobert said then. "Coach Finch and every guy in this room — that's what I really love about our team, we have a level of human connection and empathy for one another that's really good. I think all the guys will literally tell me, don't play."

The Wolves were able to prepare on Monday as if Gobert would not be there for Game 2. His absence altered how they defended the Nuggets. They prefer to play Naz Reid, Karl-Anthony Towns or Kyle Anderson one-on-one on Denver center Nikola Jokic with Gobert able to roam the paint while playing off forward Aaron Gordon, who struggles to shoot from the outside.

"It definitely changes things," point guard Mike Conley said of Gobert's potential absence. "He's a big focal point of what we do, especially defensively. Also, offensively as well, but we're a deep team and we got a lot of guys ready to step in and play for us if that's the case, and just try to get a win by any means."

Conley referenced the Wolves might have to throw some "junk" defenses at Jokic to switch up the looks they are giving him. In a March 19 loss to Denver at Target Center, the Wolves were without Gobert, Towns and Reid and still almost pulled out the game in a 115-112 loss.

"Going forward, all of us have different tools that we bring to the team, and I believe in everyone of my teammates to step up," guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker said. "All season we've been playing a few games shorthanded, we've had a few injuries. And every person that was filling in for somebody played to their role and we found ways to win."